Cowboy culture and southern hospitality are alive and well in Oklahoma City. OKC is the capital and biggest city in the Sooner State, with a population of 644,000 and counting. Surrounded by a wealth of oil fields with still-working wells, merely entering the city will take you into the authentic American West. Besides relishing in the glorious 'southernness' of it all, there are tons of things to do in Oklahoma City if you visit. Just be sure to pack for changeable weather.
People the world over use the word myriad in the wrong way, but that's not the case in Oklahoma City. Myriad Botanical Gardens consist of more than 15 acres of landscape dense with plants from all parts of the globe. It's one of Oklahoma City's most popular and loved spaces, giving city dwellers the opportunity to escape the concrete jungle without having to set foot outside of OKC. As well as offering visitors educational programs, tours, and interactive exhibits, the Myriad Botanical Gardens are also a gorgeous place to hold a wedding. You know, for those looking.
If you're a music fan, you might have decided to visit Oklahoma City to see one of the oddest art spaces in the country. Opened and run by The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, The Womb is something of a pilgrimage for all Lips fans. Even if you aren't one of their devoted followers, there is always something to see in this unique downtown art space. Over the last couple of years, Coyne has partnered with OKC art collective Factory Obscura to bring the place back to life. And yes, it's weirder and more Instagrammable than ever.
Beneath the streets of Oklahoma City's business district lies a mile of pedestrian tunnels connecting buildings, hotels, and other venues. This hidden underbelly of OKC was brainstormed and opened in the 1970s and was initially called "the Concourse." Since then, the tunnels have both fallen into disrepair and brought back to life through art exhibits, a cafe, and dozens of unique, one-time events throughout the year.
Oklahoma gets its state nickname, the "Sooner State," from the early settlers of the Land Run. In 1889, settlers rushed into the Unassigned Lands on horseback to lay claim to land before they were supposed to do so. Those people were then called "Sooners." The expansive National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is a massive complex that takes you right back to the years of the Land Run. Opened in 1955, the museum contains more than 28,000 American Indian and Western artifacts, from firearms to saddlery and Native American art. You can spend hours here and still not manage to see the scope of what's available. However, it's also one of many places in Oklahoma City you'll never want to leave.
As its name suggests, the streets of the Bricktown neighborhood are lined with red brick buildings and former warehouses. With the Bricktown Canal running through its center, the spot is OKC's premier entertainment district. You can find something to do in Bricktown during all months of the year, be it fine dining in restaurants or window shopping around its eclectic mix of boutiques and vintage stores. While you're there, try not to forget to take the Bricktown Water Taxi down the canal.
Bricktown may very well be the backbone of Oklahoma City, but the rest of its bones likely reside behind the walls of the Museum of Osteology. As strange an attraction as this might seem at first, its claim to fame is being America's only skeleton museum. Although the building appears small from the outside, the museum has hundreds of skeletons of all creatures, great and small. You'll learn so much in just an hour here about how our skeletons work and move to just how different or similar we are to our fellow mammals. Furthermore, the museum is also in the middle of nowhere, and the drive there is equally as glorious.
Arcadia Lake, on the Deep Fork River, is an expansive reservoir that drums up some of the best sunsets in the State of Oklahoma. While this isn't the biggest lake, its park, and surroundings offer plenty of things to do for people who are keen on the outdoors. Sometimes, the city can get too much, and it's good to have somewhere to escape to. Arcadia Lake has a small entrance fee of $6, but it's a place you can spend the entire day, have a waterside barbecue, or camp during the night. On top of this, the kids will love a trip to the nearby Storybook Forest.
Zoos have come a long way from the days of small enclosures. Oklahoma City Zoo provides its animals with 119 acres of land. The zoo is open year-round, with the only exceptions being Thanksgiving and Christmas, and admission is incredibly reasonable - especially if you're traveling as a group. At OKC Zoo, you can take walking trails, visit the camels, giraffes, and rhinos, or see what events are coming up soon. In addition to the surroundings and thousands of species of animal, the park prides itself on accessibility for all. Every part of the zoo is ADA accessible, and sensory sensitivity equipment can be picked up on entry.
No attraction beats a theme park for a real summer vacation, and the Wild West-themed Frontier City seems to have it all. Not only is it Oklahoma's only theme park, but it's also been bringing joy to Oklahomans and visitors for more than 60 years. Frontier City is the kind of theme park experience that is as fun for kids as it is for grandma or grandpa. It's jam-packed with traditional scents and sights that flip the nostalgia switch in all of our brains. Its attractions include a haunted mine, staged robberies, and a replica of a Western town that even Westworld would envy.
As well as being home to Oklahoma's only theme park, OKC is also home to its only interactive science museum. Located next door to OKC Zoo and covering more than 350,000 square feet, this place has everything from dinosaur skeletons to the world-class Kirkpatrick Planetarium. Kids and adults can all learn about the science that surrounds us and is developing around us every day. There are hundreds of interactive exhibits and events for people of all ages, including 21+ nighttime events for those without children.
Explore the Sooner State's past chronologically at the family-friendly Oklahoma History Center near the capitol building. The Native American displays feature stunning beadwork and info about various tribes. Sounds of the Oklahoma musical waft through the Noble gallery and, elsewhere, interactive exhibits on Oklahoma's commercial history and Vietnam War soldiers paint a vivid picture of people and place. Outside, exhibitions include a cannon and helicopter. Okies can also do a deep dive into family history and genealogy at this well-maintained, wheelchair-accessible museum—you'll find extensive resources for research.
Two anti-government extremists committed America's deadliest act of domestic terrorism in Oklahoma City in 1995 and changed the state forever. This museum stands where the bombed Murrah building once stood. It tells the story of that fateful day in April and pays respect to the victims, including 19 children. The Symbolic Memorial, with its reflecting pool, empty chairs, and Survivor Tree, is profoundly moving and looks beautiful lit up at night. Inside the museum, video footage, artifacts, and accounts from survivors and first responders recount the tragic event and its aftermath, including the perpetrators' trial.
Visual art fundis and purveyors of style will love OKC's Paseo district. This boho area is full of galleries and tasteful stores selling clothing and decor accents, and bars and restaurants draw a nightlife crowd too. The First Friday gallery walk is an excellent opportunity to add to your art collection, browse for inspiration, and enjoy the street scene around the faux Spanish village. Check out the state's oldest church, Old Trinity of Paseo, while you're in the area—it's originally from Canada and became an event venue after it moved south.
Downtown Oklahoma is home to the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder. The team is admittedly not the best in the league, but games are still a good time. Catch a match or attend various events here, from concerts to conventions. Paycom Center seats upwards of 15,000 sports spectators depending on its configuration.
Pack a picnic and head for the playground or hiking trails at Martin Park Nature Center. This 140-acre park is a wonderful green space to spend time outdoors. One of the trails is suitable for strollers and people with limited mobility. Look for deer, armadillos, prairie dogs, birds, and more wildlife in the woodlands and meadows, and learn about local plants and animals at the library. Pro tip—apply tick spray liberally for peace of mind.
This free-to-enter museum will teach you all about the state's military history and show you the vehicles and aircraft used in various battles. Museum employees are often veterans with a unique insight into war. Adults must accompany kids, but the exhibits are geared more toward grown-ups, so know before you go.
The State Capitol on Lincoln Boulevard will give you a crash course in art, history, and local politics. Completed in 1917, it's over a century old and recently underwent refurbishments. It is the largest public art museum in Oklahoma. Free guided tours delve into the art collections, explain architectural elements, and give you a moment in the grand Senate room.
Oklahoma City has its fair share of thrills, and few outings are more exciting than a day spent with Riversport Adventures. From heart-racing whitewater rafting and relaxed ziplining to kayaking and tubing, you can make fun memories with friends or family members or do something different on a solo adventure.
Firefighters are real-life heroes, and if you've ever been fascinated by their multifaceted work, you'll want to head to this museum with vintage firefighting equipment and a bunch of old fire trucks. Kids can't climb the fire trucks, but a playground helps them burn off energy. A memorial honors men and women who died to protect their fellow citizens.
Arts education is the order of the day at the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center. A dance studio and theater accompany three floors of modern art. You may stumble across an old repurposed cigarette machine that spits out art pieces for a small price—a cute touch. Stop and take in the lovely views on the terrace.